Music Monday: Too soon?

No, just too tacky. Urban Outfitters swears that their new vintage style Kent State sweatshirt isn’t meant to look like it’s spattered with blood, merely has “discoloration.” So what do you think: ignorance or bad sense of humor? Which would be worse? Don’t try to order one, they’re sold out.


In Closing: follow the money, of course; nothing says “unbiased prosecutor” like potentially raising money for a guy who many think should face murder charges; Max on UBI; Aww I didn’t think they cared; interesting. Have a  great week, folks!

Shutdown, Debt Ceiling, and Hostage Taking

So here we are over a week into the Government Shutdown. From where I sit, it sure looks like the Republicans are being more like RepubliCANTs, completely unwilling to negotiate in a world where negotiation doesn’t mean “give us everything we want.” Not that the DemocRATS are angels here, please understand. Right now nobody likes Congress very much. Individual states like Nevada are chewing their collective fingernails (and probably, secretly, making contingency plans).

It’s gotten to the point where the markets are accounting for the fact that next week, the Government may well stop paying interest on the National Debt. That’s what the debt ceiling means in real life. If our nation stops paying the bills, it’s reasonable for holders of our debt to decide it’s not worth as much, and might even be worthless. Everybody always thought “oh that would never happen, it would be too catastrophic!” Now our [Republican] elected officials are falling over themselves to say it wouldn’t be that bad. “Oh jinkies, it might be a good thing!” Oh yeah? Tell that to China. Turns out they are our biggest foreign creditor.

Looking for a silver lining? At least big corporate mergers that enrich hedge fund managers and executives at the expense of employees and consumers may have to slow down a tweak.

Let’s hope enough moderate Republicans decide they don’t want to preside over our nation going into default.

In Closing: Securing the internet from the NSA; Student loans a drag on housing; Lief Erickson; USMC reading list; Jimmy Carter on the Middle Class; keeping a schedule on a crappy job; if part time employment spiked prior to Obamacare, how did Obamacare cause it?; pay no attention to the next trade pact that’s not going to be good for American workers.

Take a deep breath

Yesterday, two terrible things happened.

In Connecticut, a nutcase broke into an elementary school and killed over 20 people — most of them little kids — with guns.

In China, a nutcase walked into an elementary school and injured over 20 people — most of them little kids — with a knife.

Disclaimer: I do not own any firearms. I do own multiple knives and assorted other items that can be used as weapons.

So first off, let’s stop pretending that guns themselves are the problem. The shooter could just as easily have used other weapons. Ok fine, the knife was a little less lethal.

The guns were stolen from his mother — whom he killed first — and it wasn’t legal for him to buy these weapons, so let’s stop pretending that more strict gun control laws would have prevented the tragedy. Not even better enforcement would have helped. The sad truth is that gun control laws work on the premise that someone who is planning to break one law will inexplicably follow another. “Oh, a 3 day waiting period to buy a gun? I guess I won’t hold up the convenience store after all. Maybe I’ll get a job instead.”

What we need to get serious about is mental illness. We don’t yet know what this young man’s problem really was, and since he is dead we may never know. What I think we can say without fear of contradiction is that sane people don’t shoot up kindergarten classrooms. But getting serious about mental illness is hard.

It’s hard because of Rosemary Kennedy. It’s hard because of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s hard because asylums used to be terrible places where the mentally ill were warehoused. It’s hard because legislators closed those awful facilities and offloaded mental health to unprepared communities decades ago. It’s hard because rules and laws that would make it easier to put truly mentally ill people in hospitals would also make it easier to put many eccentric-but-normal people in hospitals, drugged against their wills. It’s hard because some school administrators think black trench coats are a sign of possible violent tendencies. It’s hard because mental hospitals were dumping grounds for “rebellious” and “troubled” teens (and adults) as recently as the 80s, and those same mental hospitals were more than happy to make up fraudulent details to keep insurance company money coming. And it’s hard because that in turn has made insurance companies wary of attempts to make them cover mental health — it took an act of Congress and even then it took 2 years to implement the rules.

My heart goes out to every family touched by these awful events.

However, the availability of weapons among the U.S. population is does not in itself suffice to explain the often exasperating massacres that occur there. Nations like Canada, Sweden and Finland also record high levels of per capita weapons ownership without leading to the type of mass murders that systematically shock and terrorize the United States. This suggests a kind of collective propensity toward barbarism in that country which has never been explained, and which should start to be discussed as quickly as possible.


In closing: Arnold loves to pay taxes; mastodon bones; and historically accurate penny.


Today’s BlogHer Book Club selection is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. As usual, this is a paid review but the opinions are my own. For more, be sure to start here. The first discussion item is here.

Dr. Brown is a researcher in “shame and empathy.” The central idea of this book is that we all experience shame — a lot of shame, most of the time — and that our shame causes us to develop mostly unhealthy coping mechanisms that are meant reduce our perceived vulnerability to others, but in actuality cause us to not connect well with others. Rejecting this cycle, embracing our vulnerability, and developing “shame resilience” allows us to live “Wholehearted” lives (her capitalization, not mine). We can only do this by “daring greatly.” This last is a reference to one of Teddy Roosevelt’s speeches, which you can hear here.

So here’s the problem: in Dr. Brown’s eyes, I am either ludicrously well adjusted, or I am a sociopath. I don’t fear people laughing at me. I don’t spend all day worrying that my child will have an accident a school and I won’t have been there to stop it. I don’t feel guilty about not looking perfect at all times. Do I occasionally screw up and have to say to myself “Well that was dumb and I shouldn’t have done that”? Of course I do! But I don’t dwell on it and I don’t let fear or guilt control my life!

Dr. Brown tries very hard to write an accessible book: references to pop culture such as Harry Potter and Hotel California; pseudo-catchy phrases like Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training; admissions that she has been known to use colorful language. She does occasionally neglect to footnote when “research says”. She has done TED talks, seminars, written multiple books, talked to oodles of CEOs, and even given a lecture for Navy SEALs — and she will mention “examples” from any of the above as often as she can think to do so. Perhaps the researcher is too close to her subject matter and needs to work on self-esteem.

However, the book is not without merit. Dr. Brown is correct that love and connection is a basic human need. It’s useful to know that all most some men are driven by the fear that somebody will think they are “pussies.” All of us benefit from understanding that there are people out there who will use guilt to manipulate others, including bosses, significant others, and even teachers. The first time somebody thought to say “there are no stupid questions” was almost certainly in response to shame. There is a nice list of questions for gauging an office’s culture in chapter 5.

Dr. Brown is also the author of I Thought It Was Just Me. Well maybe it’s not just her, but it certainly isn’t me.

In Closing: math; disappearing; rivalry; human rights; Fred spread; predator; that’s why; long memories.

Missing the Point

It is absolutely a tragedy what happened at the Empire State Building. Who can possibly predict that a guy who was laid off almost a year ago would come back and start shooting? Nevertheless, I’d like to digress for a moment to point out that it’s a lot safer to never hire a nutcase than to have to fire one. Screen your employees before you hire them, people.

So then let’s get into the nitty gritty, starting with this opinion piece talking about how NYPD officers use great restraint:

As a rule, it takes a lot to get NYPD officers to fire their guns at anyone. Despite a handful of isolated, but highly publicized, exceptions to this rule when officers have shot unarmed individuals over the past decade and a half, New York’s 35,000-officer force remains a worldwide model of firearms restraint and veneration for human life.


In rapidly unfolding and completely unpredictable situations, assessing the need to use firearms is often a split-second decision. It can mean the difference between life and death. Officers have to sift through confusion, fear and fragmented information.

In the incident outside of the Empire State Building, it is made more difficult because the street is one of the busiest in America. The officers had to take into account the risk of the gunman hurting potentially many people in the vicinity were he not stopped.

Look, nobody sane is disputing that they had to make sure this guy didn’t hurt anybody else. The man pulled his gun out and was clearly intending to shoot at the cops. This wasn’t a place to experiment with a taser.  What were they supposed to do, offer to buy him a latte and talk for a while??

The problem is not that NYPD had to shoot this guy. The problem is that out of the 16 shots fired, 3 hit the perp. All 9 innocent bystanders were shot by the cops trying to “protect” them.

Take aim at the real problem: aim.

In Closing: It’s the jobs, stupid; the important question is the one about whether his mom was born in Kansas; if no blacks support Romney and a minority of women and Hispanics and people under 35 support him, how can the polls possibly be as close as they’ve been? Are there really that many angry old racist men?; school internet safety; yep (so why are these guys still married?); if Republicans get their way, be ready for $10,000 per ounce gold; abused by the system; fake world leaders; can’t make this up; trash can babies; ok, but Goldman didn’t make the drought happen; over 20 serial rapists in Detroit so far; scary; probably not what life is like in Russia; and the old man speaks the truth.

What IS the Matter with Kansas?

So Kansas wants to make it perfectly legal for a doctor to lie to a dumb bitch pregnant woman. Let me provide my own commentary on the ACLU’s points:

It would provide legal protection to a doctor who discovers that a baby will be born with a devastating condition and deliberately withholds that information from his patient because he doesn’t want her to seek an abortion. That means a doctor could decide to lie about the results of a woman’s prenatal test so that she won’t have information that she needs to make the best decision for her circumstances.

In other words, a doctor can make a woman give birth to a baby with birth defects that she can’t provide for financially or emotionally. Sorry, the days of “put the abomination in an institution” are long over. I’ve already discussed that this is fraud.

The bill attempts to scare women by forcing doctors to tell patients about a supposed link between abortion and breast cancer — a risk that the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and other medical experts roundly reject .

Doctors are not only allowed to lie to patients, they are forced to lie to patients.

This bill would also require public hospitals to turn away a woman who desperately needs an abortion to prevent serious harm to her health. The extremists pushing this bill would have a hospital tell a very sick woman that she should come back when her pregnancy is about to kill her, even if that risks her future fertility or causes organ failure.

I’m not sure what the definition of “public hospital”  is here: hospitals owned by government entities (rather than corporations or charitable organizations) or just hospitals open to the public. Nevertheless, this is like telling someone with chest pains to come back when they are sure it’s a heart attack.

Now here’s the thing. Where are the doctors on this? Why aren’t doctors screaming that this law puts women in danger? Why aren’t doctors pointing out that this bill requires them to lie to patients? Why am I the one pointing out that even with this fig leaf of a bill it’s going to bite doctors on the ass to tell a patient that everything is fine when it isn’t?

AMA? AOA? ACOG? This is the second state that wants to say it’s acceptable to conceal important medical information. I don’t even know how many states require doctors to lie about breast cancer. At least one state requires expensive, medically unnecessary procedures before an abortion, and more states are considering it. Where’s your statement on this? How does this square with your legal and ethical requirements to do the right thing for patients?

How long before employers decide they just can’t do business in a state where their female employees face obstacles to sometimes (regrettably) medically necessary care, and where a routine pregnancy can mean losing employees who must become full time caregivers for a baby with severe birth defects?

In Closing: Ninja; that resume can go in the trash; on J.P. Morgan; how did we get to a lunch revolution?; and NAFTA vs. China.

Uh, Make Reservations?


Once again, we have a post inspired by the BlogHer Life Well Lived campaign. The current topic? Getting Organized. And the question I have been asked to answer:

What is your best tip for hosting a gathering, get-together or party that is enjoyable and stress-free for both the host and guests?

Wow. They almost could not have asked a question I am less qualified to answer.

The last party I hosted was roughly a decade ago: a tea party for stay-at-home-moms and their mostly preschool children. The cat hid. Sure, I’ve been to plenty of parties in the meantime, but never in charge of planning and never waiting nervously for guests to arrive.

So regrettably, my tips are pathetically simplistic. If you can’t just make reservations, you’ll have to make do:

  1. If catering (or pot luck) is out of the question, keep the food simple. This isn’t the time to try and impress everybody with that great new recipe from Food Network that looked so much easier than it was. Just be sure to serve enough variety that there’s something everyone can eat. There’s a lot to be said for stuff that is almost ready to go straight from the store. I’ll never forget the sorority party where we suggested to our alumni hostess that a big Stouffer’s Lasagne was just fine, and she decided that she simply had to make the real deal from scratch. She was frazzled long before any of us arrived!
  2. Less is more when it comes to activities. This is true whether the guests are 4 or 40 years old. Sure, have some stuff planned — including a way for people to get to know one another if the guests aren’t already all friends — but let people have their own conversations. When your guests are kids, understand that some unstructured playtime is a great way for them to blow off extra energy (say, from cake, ice cream, and sugary fruit punch?).
  3. Do as much as possible before hand, so you can relax and enjoy your own party. If possible, enlist someone to help you out. Delegate authority! Put somebody else in charge of a few things. Nobody says you have to be a super-hero.

Be sure to cruise on over to the main post on this over at BlogHer and add your comments over there. For that matter, don’t forget to enter the sweepstakes for a brand new Kindle Fire.

In Closing: I guess you’ll have to eat two; pretty much yeah; Dragon and Tiger Remix; right on, brother; what the heck is it about that place that begets violence??; the truth about abortion; Romney doesn’t just want to make the government small enough to drown in a bathtub, his plan to do it will drown the economy too!; 3 key questions; about time; curing diabetes; and free textbooks.

My First Book Review

Maybe you knew — and maybe you didn’t — but I like to read. The nice people over at BlogHer asked me to take part in their BlogHer Book Club review-cluster (somebody needs to think of a word to describe dozens of reviews of one book) on Jean Kwok’s semi-autobiographical novel, Girl in Translation. Just want to jump to my review? It’s called “Nobody in America Lives Like This,” Except They Do. I’ve already spawned a spoilers discussion!

There’s a new “Book Reviews” category. Don’t know if you’ll see more in it yet, but I’m leaving myself the option.

Update: per comment from P.D., they are now “Book Events.”

In Closing: yes, there are jobs making clean tech, in China!; on higher education; Judge realizes that you are not your IP address (just one fatal flaw in pretty much every online ID scheme proposed); I think there will be some mighty surprised people in a couple of weeks; UPS’s safest driver; disenfranchisement; you are not a storm-chaser, get your butt to cover!; screw austerity; Senator Dean Heller; looking forward to this book!; I [heart] Amazon; what do soap and school vouchers have in common? (heck, I talked about vouchers within my first 10 posts); on McJobs; must be nice to be that lucky every day (what? you don’t suppose they are manipulating the system, do you?); and the Black Hole.

Follow-Up Thursday

HR3: “Ok ok, we’ll take that word out if you’re going to get pissy about it. Damn feminists and liberals! We’d better get some concessions in return!” It’s still a bad bill that should not become law.

Banking Corruption: Oh yeah, JP Morgan knew Madoff wasn’t quite legit, problem? Elizabeth Warren still needs to head the CFFB, and to hell with Timmy Geithner. Did you know that the highest paid guy at Bank of America is still Angel Mozilo? The same guy whose business practices cost B of A billions of dollars last quarter alone?? It sure would be nice if someone would enforce the law regarding foreclosure fraud.

I felt a disturbance in the Force, as if a million wingnuts’ heads exploded and were suddenly silenced: The Obama administration is investigating whether the Health Insurance Reform bill can be used to require insurers to provide — not just cover, but provide freecontraceptives and family planning services!

On the Tea Party: Excuse me, I seem to have fallen into some alternate universe where George W. Bush is talking sense, and more or less agreeing with Howard Dean. Does the letter J exist in this universe?

On the Economy: Google got 75,000 job applications in one week because the economy is soooo good, right? At least demand for temps is up (pro tip: I’ve gotten job offers working at temp agencies; they’re a good way to earn a little money, get your feet wet, and maybe end up in a working interview!). On the whole, the employment situation is still “a lighter shade of gray.” The number of people using food stamps is up 14% from last year. So yeah, there’s a teensy disconnect between Wall Street and Your Street.

Will of the People: We want alternative energy, and the jobs we hope will be created by it, and the lower power/fuel bills, and just maybe the cleaner world. This is one of those “excuse me, the center is way off there to the left” moments.

On Education: You know, maybe teachers would do a better job if they had a decent curriculum to work from! Oh, now that’s crazy talk; everybody knows a really good teacher re-invents the wheel every semester…..

In Closing: Republicans hate puppies; they hate the environment too (Nixon was a dirty hippie!!) homeless shelters sometimes break up families; anchor babies; Weird Al; China; and VW is trying to win me back after making the Jetta look like ass:

Jack LaLanne

The man who revolutionized exercise in America, Jack LaLanne, died yesterday at the age of 96. He performed several spectacular public stunts, set world records, had a popular exercise show for decades, preached weight-bearing exercise and healthy eating, owned health clubs, and invented a bit of equipment you’ll find in every serious gym, the Smith Machine (click there to find out why it’s called the “Smith”machine instead of the LaLanne Machine). Oh, and although I can’t find signs that he practiced, he was a Chiropractor (it was probably the most efficient way to learn anatomy and physiology for him).

Rest in peace. I do hope some of today’s fitness superstars have enough class to attend his funeral.

Follow-Up: Steve Edwards (the other guy behind P90X) did this item.

In closing: coincidence; why not just troll Google Street-View for evidence?; rehab; truth; regulations; and Reich is right correct.